Sunday, November 5, 2017

Millard Salter's Last Day

Millard Salter's Last Day by Jacob M. Appel
Gallery Books: 11/7/17
eBook review copy; 272 pages
ISBN-13: 9781507204085

Millard Salter's Last Day by Jacob M. Appel is a recommended story of a 75 year-old man who wants to end his life.

It is Millard Salter's 75th birthday and it is the day he wants to end his life, before he becomes incapacitated. He doesn't want to slowly fade out or lose control. He would rather plan his suicide, by hanging, after he handles some final details on this, his last day. He goes to work at St. Dymphna’s Hospital, where he is a psychiatrist, and continues as if this is an ordinary day, as he deals with all the various problems that crop up on any day. One problem is a lost lynx somewhere in the hospital (and you will wonder if it is really a lynx until the question is answered).

He meets with patients. He talks to a student who wants a recommendation. He deals with various colleagues with widely divergent temperaments. He purposefully seeks out his ex-wife, whom he hasn't seen for twenty-seven years. He meets his 
his youngest son, Lysander, for lunch. He visits the grave of his second wife, Isabelle. He stops in to see Delilah, the widow he has fallen in love with. He talks to his youngest daughter, Maia. Basically, Millard goes through his day, reminiscing and reflecting, but still planning to end his life. He's trying to tie up any loose ends before his end.

There are many humorous scenes and descriptions. Millard is a old pro at word play and puns. He freely shares his thoughts with the reader, some of them serious, like the right to die. The day itself was full of enough odd occurrences that many able-bodied people (of which Millard is one) would want to change their plans just to see what the next day had in store for them. There were enough surprising things that happened that it would be fitting for the man to pause and reconsider his course of actions. Rather than thinking about how old or outdated he feels, perhaps this psychiatrist should have looked at his own thoughts and asked for some help. ("Physician heal thyself.")

While very well-written technically, the actual content of Millard's day combined with his thoughts seemed a bit too meandering. But the overwhelming trouble with this novel for me was the inability to feel any connection or sympathy for a man who wants to end his life based on his age and before he has any health problems. Sorry, but that is not a good enough reason for this reader. Just because he is 75 isn't a reason not to embrace the life he has. He has no major health issues, no physical limitations, no financial struggles. There are so many people who have a life filled with what could be viewed as legitimate reasons to want life to end, but yet they still embrace life and live it to the fullest. (And, I would not describe this novel as "heartwarming" or as "in the spirit of "A Man called Ove." Millard is not a curmudgeon.)

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Gallery Books.

1 comment:

Vicki said...

I was sold until I read your last paragraph, now I'm not sure.